Some smooth talking tuk tuk driver convinced me to take his tuk tuk from Malindi to Saba Saba villa in Watamu. I was thinking it would be relaxing to ride in that little tuk-tuk and breath in the warm humid air, acquaint myself with the sights and sounds of Malindi, Gede and Watamu. I would be watching people go about their errands and businesses while thinking to myself, ha! I am on vacation. I soon realized it was not a very clever Idea as a 45 min tuk tuk ride proved to be way too bumpy, too hot and downright uncomfortable but the uncomfortable experience was short-lived.
We pulled up into the driveway of Mawe Resort, a gated community where Saba Saba villa is located. On both sides of the little driveway toward the gate of the lodge, I was greeted by bougainvillaea flowers on both sides of the driveway of all kinds of delightful colours; pink, purple, yellow, and white, so pretty immediately restoring my calm and making me smile.
Entering through the villa gate and a huge white castle-looking home faced me. Quite intimidating I remember thinking. I was greeted by the villa Manager who had been expecting me. He ushered me into a spacious living area/ reception/foyer decorated with Swahili furniture and artefacts. As I was staring at the wall hangings and furniture, my eyes caught a glimpse of bright white light, green and blue and I started to walk towards the bright light and colours. I entered through a space between two large wooden doors into a huge patio/ dining area, to the most breathe taking view that no amount of professional photography could capture!
Wow! It felt like I had entered another world, a world far from the one that I had come from, aka Nairobi. Before me was an inviting pool with the backdrop of a gorgeous garden decorated with beautiful tropical trees and flowers and an expanse of bright blue sky and ocean waters at the far end of the view. I just stood for a while and allowed myself to take it all in and be in the moment. The tuk-tuk ride seemed like a very distant memory. Only to be disrupted by the lodge manager asking me if he could show me around the lodge so that I could pick a room.
The next two hours, and I mean it, two whole hours were spent trying to decide which of the 9 rooms I would be calling home for the next 5 nights. Up and down the stairs I went, from the ground floor to the first floor to the second floor (that has a honeymoon like suite with a fantastic aerial view of the ocean) Nine rooms, different bed designs, different balcony views, and differences in how the natural lighting and breeze come into the rooms. I just could not decide. Finally, the manager took pity on me and told me I could spend the night in one room and then swap to another. And that’s how I picked my first room. On the ground floor. I loved waking up in the morning, turning my head, and seeing the view of the garden and the ocean. Waking up to such a beautiful view makes you jump out of bed immediately because you feel like the clock is ticking and the day is passing you by.
You feel at ease and relaxed from the moment you check into Saba Saba Villa. The lodge is on a coral-like reef that boasts a magnificent aerial view of the sea. On what I like to call the resident beach (a spot where lounge chairs were placed overlooking the sea cliffs and my absolute favourite spot in the entire lodge) you can see the ocean for miles and miles on end. I was up most mornings to watch beautiful sunrises; early in the morning, the breeze is cool and comes up to kiss your face. Honestly, at that point, I had no care in the world. To soak in nature and to feel like the whole world just showed up to support you and all your lofty dreams. You get a similar feeling at sunset, and when it is completely dark, the sky above you stares at you and shiny bright stars tickle your eyes. The ocean breeze is stronger and intoxicating in the evenings, each breath is like a new lease of life.
There is a huge pool with nice comfy sun beds, and a day bed at the bar where you can relax and cool off when it gets too hot. It’s also a great spot to have your breakfast, read a book, and intermittently fantasize about owning a home like this. I sunbathed by the pool too. Mostly in the afternoon, when the shade of the trees offers a cool spot and made several alternate trips between the pool and the sun bed. One could get used to this kind of life.
After two days of me time, basking in nothingness, and allowing myself the permission to just be; I was ready for some company as there was to be a group stay with fellow travellers starting the third day of my arrival and little exploration adventures that had been organized prior by Njoro.
Old Town Watamu and the Love Island
On the first day of exploration outside the villa, we drove through the old town Watamu. The town is small and quaint with narrow winding streets, and little shops of all kinds; curio shops, fishmongers, and regular shops. And beautiful art pieces some of which were on sale. There are also residential houses in the winding streets, and Watamu residents can be seen cooling off their beautifully decorated balconies. It was a short scenic drive to the beach, after which we got out and headed towards the water. It was a beautiful sight. There’s something about water. A lot of water. Everyone starts to smile and talk louder, and goof around. The beach and the water makes none beach residents like us happy, playful, and light.
The tide was far gone, so we could wade through little pools of water to make our way to the love islands. The love Islands, are 7 little islands not too far from Watamu beach only accessible when the tide is far out. I heard the Islands got their name from the fact that lovers come to swim in the little pools/lagoons of water that gather around them for hours on end. Wading through the water is as fun as it sounds.
The water is warm, your feet sink into the sand and there’s no better feeling than to be surrounded by gorgeous views of blue water and skies. I particularly enjoyed making a path of my footprints in the sand and doing cart wills on the little patches of dry land we would come across as we walked. Finally, we got to the love islands, and at that point, everyone wanted to immerse themselves in the pools of warm ocean water that surrounded the islands. We just sat, waded and swam in the water for hours. I really wanted to climb the island and see what the view from there looked like. After some help from some local beach boys, I was hoisted up the rock coral reefs and saw the most magical view of the ocean I have ever seen in my entire life. Something cannot be described but only experienced.
Meals and Merry Making
The swimming made us hungry and it was good to return to a fantastic simple dinner that the warm friendly staff at Saba Saba set up by the pool, under the stars. It was a good time to have great conversations and merry-making and even dive back into the pool for fun mid-night swims. Breakfast and lunches were beautifully laid out in the dining area located on the patio/terrace.
The Jabulani, Snorkeling and Mida Creek/ Sudi Island
Our next exploration day was to Mida Creek. Our very high-spirited group left the Lodge after negotiations with a local boat service for a day’s excursion. We set off on our boat “The Jabulani”. Needless to say, I was already on the roof craving to see the view of the ocean, while in motion and it sure did not disappoint. Blue waters as far as the eye can see. I have to admit, you feel invincible staring at the ocean, on the rooftop of a moving boat. It’s the best experience ever.
We took photos, pretended we were sexy models and sub-bathed on the boat rooftop. We finally reached the snorkelling spot, wondering where the fishies were until our boat crew started to toss bread crumbs into the water and suddenly a Kaleidoscope of moving creatures gobbled up the bread in the most playful fashion and then vanished! The process was repeated over and over again to our amusement. We soon got into snorkelling gear and were able to see different kinds of coral and fishes and just swim around the boat. The crew made us get into the boat, which we reluctantly did and we rowed to yet another spot, in the ocean that was made up of pure white sand and blue water with water mid-thigh deep where we all dipped in for another swim until it was time for lunch.
Our boat sailed towards Mida Creek and we saw the most majestic green mangrove forest; quite a sight to behold. At some point, it felt like those trees would suddenly come alive and walk towards us. Upon arrival, onto the little mangrove island ( Mida Creek) we were greeted by the most delightful aromas of grilled seafood that had obviously been marinated in some coastal spices yummy! On the little island was the warmest local staff that run food, canoe and coastal artefacts/jeweller businesses on the island.
The island had bandas where people could eat and talk in groups. Our food soon came and was comprised of viazi, mchele nazi, prawns and chicken. Unfortunately, we negotiated too hard so our lunch did not include other exotic seafood such as lobster. However, the food vendors were nice enough to give us a little taste, of grilled pweza and lobster. Finger licking delicious. I am defiantly paying for the full grilled seafood experience next time. After stuffing our faces, the group went canoe riding through the creek, seeing the mangrove forest. I never had a chance to go on the canoe because I went for a potty break and found that the canoe had left! I am yet to forgive them for leaving me.
It was soon time to leave, and our warm friendly boat crew set us back to Watamu. One of the crew challenged his fellow crew members, in Swahili. “Kwani tunaimbia Wazungu peke yao? “ (Do we only sing for international tourists?) No sooner had he said that than the crew started to sing, and beat their makeshift drums into nostalgic Swahili tunes that got everyone on the boat shaking their waists to chakacha rhythm and laughing hysterically. At that point, I had a thought, I counted myself blessed, here I was on a very affordable holiday, in a boat, in the middle of the ocean, dancing my heart away, at sunset with beautiful Kenyan people. It’s that kind of feeling you get when you know, you are in the right time, at the right place and nothing else matters.
If you are patient and have sought hard enough, you discover who you are, and what you are made for, and boldly begin to work and walk that path. But life can throw stuff at you that makes you weary, stumble, and falter. Those numerous breathtaking ocean views and rich conversations with new friends energized and reset something in me to continue on my life’s path after struggling with lower back pain for the past eight months.